Robert Irwin at Sprüth Magers

A year ago I had the pleasure of seeing a new Robert Irwin work installed at Sprüth Magers gallery in Los Angeles. This work is all about light but involves no electricity. The gallery had interior walls removed and a layered cube of scrim in the center.

The center cube has points at which the scrim has been spray painted. It composes the scene, offering a frame as you stare into its abyss.

Same goes for the windows surrounding the gallery, where little squares of tinting have been applied.

As you walk around the interior structure, any one or thing on the opposite end becomes obscured. At various angles, the structures layered walls create levels of transparency and reveal the form of the space around you. It’s a strange experience difficult to put into words but perhaps demonstrated above by the darkening of the black squares with each subsequent layer.

In terms of focus, the use of the squares and structure help guide your eye to the effect of the scrim.

With the openness of the space, and polished concrete floors, light pours in, making you acutely aware of the time of day and quality of light outside. As Iriwn puts it: “What I just did, as far as I’m concerned, has to do with feelings,” he says of the Sprüth Magers installation. “Theoretically, it makes you really aware of how [darn] beautiful the world is, how interesting it is.”

Through his use of scrim, tinting, and paint, he controls natural light to create an otherworldly effect, drawing out the natural beauty of this gallery space and the outside light. Things shift with the movement of the viewer, as layers of fabric change the quality of the light and the perception of the space.